Indian Journal of Community and Family Medicine

: 2019  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 100--102

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan – A long journey to achieve a big dream

P. Karpaga Priya, Ashwini Katole, Gouri Kumari Padhy 
 Department of Community and Family Medicine, AIIMS, Raipur, Chhattisgarh, India

Correspondence Address:
Ashwini Katole
Department of Community and Family Medicine, AIIMS, Raipur, Chhattisgarh


Even after 70 years of independence, poor state of sanitation glares as one of the challenges of India. The government has tried to establish a well functioning sanitation program in the country since 1954. This program has undergone lot of changes since then and in 2014 it was renamed as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. In order to promote safe water practices, several pipelines were installed and rivers were cleaned. Imposing Swachhta Abhiyan for carrying out activities, conducting several training programs and workshops, opening of Pink toilets, Namami Ganga, Swachh Vidyala are few of the worth mentioning initiatives under the program. Though the services are being provided at door-steps and the citizens are supported financially for toilet construction, the actual proportion of people using these toilets is under debate. Swachhata Pakhwada is being celebrated twice a year. Post celebration observance of safe disposal of waste and minimal usage of plastic is questionable. Achieving an open defecation free nation with assured safe sanitation is an initiation from the government and acceptance by the population. Implementation of these programs can only lead India becoming one of the cleanest countries in the world.

How to cite this article:
Priya PK, Katole A, Padhy GK. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan – A long journey to achieve a big dream.Indian J Community Fam Med 2019;5:100-102

How to cite this URL:
Priya PK, Katole A, Padhy GK. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan – A long journey to achieve a big dream. Indian J Community Fam Med [serial online] 2019 [cited 2021 Oct 25 ];5:100-102
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It all began with the germ theory that sanitation and hygiene are the most vital instruments of health and well-being. When the investigation of cholera epidemic was carried, the need of safe and sustainable drinking water came into light. According to the United Nations Development Programme, in 2015, 2.3 billion people lacked basic sanitation and 892 million practiced open defecation.[1] According to the WHO in 2015, 82% of global urban versus 51% of global rural population use improved sanitation facilities.[2]

Even after 70 years of independence, poor state of sanitation glares as one of the challenges of India. In 2012 report of the WHO, India accounted almost for a third of the world's population without improved sanitation and two-third of population practicing open defecation.[3]

 National Sanitation Programs

It was in 1954, the National Water Supply and Sanitation Program was initiated with the objective of providing safe water and adequate drainage facilities for the entire urban and rural population of India. In 1986, the government launched the Central Rural Sanitation Program (CRSP), the first nationwide sanitation program. The Nirmal Gram Puraskar was launched to recognize the achievements and efforts of gram panchayats toward full sanitation coverage. In 2001, the CRSP was overhauled with the introduction of the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), which carried forward the demand-driven approach focusing on awareness building. Several other large sanitation programs have been launched since then such as the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan in rural India (replaced TSC) and Basic Services for Urban Poor.[4] On October 2, 2014, came the world's largest sanitation campaign, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA), with the aim of creating a clean and open defecation free (ODF) India by 2019.[5]

 Success Stories

A 35,000 L water tank and several water pipelines have been installed in the village of Navlewadi under this mission. The villagers of Chauras jointly cleaned the banks of river Narmada and cleared the garbage piles after the initiation of Swach Bharat. Puzhakkal village of Kerala has become a role model for the state in tackling solid wastes. The villagers have installed waste bins and set up biogas plant, and an entire waste management plan is in place. A series of motivational campaigns had been conducted in the backward districts of Koraput (Odisha) and had resulted in making 11 villages ODF. Women of Oontkar village conduct regular gathering to discuss on cleanliness and the ways to implement it.[6]

Swach Cess has been levied to facilitate the functioning of the program. The government has gained around 149.90 crores for the year 2018–2019 through this, which has to be utilized for various activities of Swachhata.[7]

The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has been conducting various state and district level workshops for the successful implementation of the program and various resource persons were called in for the same.[8] The introduction of pink toilets has strengthened women's right to privacy, health, hygiene, and quality services. The incorporation of public–private partnership in the maintenance of pink toilets has added feather to the cap.[9] Namami Gange Program has made 4470 villages located across 52 districts of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal ODF.[10] Since October 2014, under Swach Bharat Mission–Gramin (SBM-G), 926.21 lakh toilets have been built and 617 districts declared ODF.[11] Since the launch of SBM (G), there is 36.73% increase in sanitation coverage.[10]

Under Swachh Vidyalaya initiative, 417,796 toilets were constructed in 261,400 elementary and secondary government schools by August 2015, which has led to 11.08 lakh government schools getting access to gender-segregated toilets.[12] This has not stopped with providing just toilets, but also Swachhata education at this tender age which helps them to build a better future.

In Raipur, the government has taken spectacular efforts from distributing color-coded bins for domestic disposal to their timely collection door to door in a color-coded van everyday. This has indeed motivated the citizens for appropriate categorization of domestic by-products and their routine disposal.

Different information education and communication strategies were deployed for creating awareness of SBA. Aggressive mass media campaign casting Mr. Amitab Bachchan under the title “Darwaza Bandh” was telecasted for promoting continuous toilet use. Other celebrities to name a few like Mrs. Shilpa Shetty and Mrs. Vidya Balan have been actively propagating the message. Mr. Akshay Kumar's “Toilet Ek Prem Katha” was supported by the ministry and it was positively received by the SBM (G) beneficiary audience.[10]


Although the government has constructed sanitary toilets at the household level as promised, the number of families started using this facility is under question. Since the cultural practice and belief of a set of population is always against the use of toilets very close to their homes, the practice of open defecation still continues in such areas.[4] When villages declare themselves of ODF status, the number of them legally confirmed is under doubts. Since behavior change occurs over a period of time, is it possible to achieve 100% ODF status in a short span of 5 years?

Although manual scavenging is prohibited under the law, as per the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011, there were 182,505 manual scavengers in the rural areas of the country.[13] Hence, the ultimate truth behind these figures being that one of the objectives of SBA is remained unfulfilled.

The other objective was the scientific municipal solid waste management system. This has to be considered in urban areas only, as the practice of proper segregation and disposal is not completely functional in rural areas yet. The reduced use and appropriate disposal of plastics have been insisted in the program, especially under Swachhata Pakhwada. However, after this fortnight program, what is the postobservation effect? Are the procedures followed all round the year? Despite knowing the hazards of plastic use and its improper disposal, no steps are particularly focused to curtail this matter under SBA. The huge amount of tax collected for the purpose of Swachhata remains unaccounted for, despite being questioned under right to information.[7] Even though the government has apportioned the color bins, people were not educated about the methods to segregate and dispose the wastes. Furthermore, there are no ideal techniques for plastic waste disposal. If the legislations were to be made stricter, public place littering might reduce significantly. The rag pickers can be employed to collect the reusable wastes and plastic wastes on regular basis door to door.


The Indian government has taken a tremendous effort in initiating the world's largest sanitation drive. A lot of resources in means of time, money, and workforce have been invested into this camp through active involvement of the government offices, staff, and programs. However, the amount of resources pooled into this program, was it effective in achieving the desired sanitary status of the country? Has the government ideally improved the health status of people with this drive? Is the mission under routine monitoring and evaluation program? Is this short time span enough to judge this program a success or a failure? These are the few lingering questions left behind in our minds besides giving a loud round of applause for such a beginning to a long journey.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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